Memories Made at YMCA Camp Cullen – Thoughts from an Alumni
Author: Detra Alton, MBA
As the summertime approaches, many parents are trying to make summer decisions for their children. There are so many options to choose from, such as summer day camps, educational camps, summer school and hanging out at the grandparents’ house all summer. Have you ever thought about sending your child/children to a weeklong overnight summer camp? The YMCA of Greater Houston has been committed to enriching the lives of youth and families through camping at YMCA Camp Cullen for almost 50 years.
The living history of camping at the Y is represented by alumni that can be found all over our city, our state, our country and the World. I have the privilege of having a YMCA Camp Cullen alumni living in my home. My spouse, Rey Alton, attended YMCA Camp Cullen a couple of times during his childhood and he fondly talks about his spent there. I asked if he would share his experience with me and he was delighted to tell me about all things YMCA Camp Cullen.
How did you hear about Camp Cullen?
I was a 5th grade student at Parker Elementary in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in the early 80s. I vividly remember the Principal making an announcement about it and everyone getting excited about the possibility of going camping. Literature was sent home from the school to announce the opportunity about the attending camp through a partnership with the YMCA of Greater Houston and HISD. My classmates and I were excited, so we agreed as a class to ask our parents to attend. I even invited my next door neighbor to come with us.
What was it like arriving at Camp Cullen for the first time?
Arriving at Camp Cullen was exciting! As a kid the ride to camp seemed very long, but once we arrived I was in awe of the camp grounds. It felt great to be around all my classmates and friends. We were all in the same cabin, so it was a good feeling to be surrounded by familiar faces. We were all excited to be away from home and away from our parents for a week.
What was your favorite activity to do at camp?
Every day at camp I looked forward to riding the speedboat and using the water skis. It was fun speeding around Lake Livingston and learning how to stand up properly on the water skis without falling. I got better at waterskiing by the end of the week, again it was really the highlight of my camp experience.
Is there another skill that you learned at Camp Cullen?
Yes, I learned to canoe during my time at Camp Cullen. Our Camp Counselors showed us the needed basics skills for canoeing. They showed us how to hold the paddle correctly, how to paddle forward, paddle backwards, etc. I will say that I still have an interest in canoeing as I try to canoe whenever I get the chance in my adulthood.
What were your favorite night time activities at Camp Cullen?
My all-time favorite night time activity was the Talent Show! My group did a comedy show with a dance routine and everyone loved it! The winner was decided by the loudest audience applause and my team won! The Talent Show was such a fun night and it was fun creating the show with my friends; it was a chance to bond more.
Another night time activity I enjoyed was singing camp songs around the fire. It was a time to start winding down for the night before heading back to the cabins. A great way to end the day!
Would you send our children to Camp Cullen and why?
Yes! I think it’s a good way to get away from your normal everyday home summer life and learn to be independent. It forced me to take on the responsibility of taking care of myself, as my parents weren’t there for me to rely on. I think it was a great life experience, filled with life lessons. I never got homesick as I was enjoying the camp life! I enjoyed it so much I returned the following year and stayed for two full weeks.
I think sending our children to YMCA Camp Cullen also teach them the life skill of independence. In addition, they will also get to experience and learn new things. I know it would be an adjustment for them the first day, but when all the fun starts they will quickly forget about us.
The YMCA Camp Cullen is planning to host an alumni celebration in 2025. Would you be interested in attending the celebration?
Yes! I’d love for my family and I to be a part of that event. It would be great to reconnect with old classmates and reminiscence on our time together at camp. I would even like to share some of my favorite activities with our children. I think that would be a really fun day.
Are you or a family member alumni of YMCA Camp Cullen? Visit our website to get connected with other alumni, join our social channels and stay up to date on the planning for an epic 50 year celebration in 2025!